The Impulse that Precedes the Action

In my work I often get people to shift into an altered state of consciousness that could descriptively be referred to as “practical ecstasy”.  Even working on the phone, my work is experiential and sometimes so focused as to get people stoned on their own in-the-moment experience.  Practical ecstasy is a state of meta-presence which results from sustaining acute enough attention as to acess information of what is going on between the moments of normal awareness.  Here is an exercise that helps people practice this deepening of attention.  I recommend you do it with your eyes open.  If you’re too distracted, or if the need to blink is frequent, do it with your eyes closed.  Also, have a clock handy which is easy for you to see so you can time different part of this.

Before starting the exercise, take a minute to sit and get relaxed – but not too relaxed.  Allow yourself a little time to get mindful.  That is, tune in to your in-the-moment experience.  Notice your body in your sitting position.  Notice your breath and the particular ease and flow of it.  Notice if your mind is busy or settled down.  Simply notice and allow what happens to be so in your experience.

1.  Now, sit quietly, uninterrupted, not speaking, and for one full minute, notice all the movements you make, with the exception of breath-related movements.  Your legs, feet, head, arms, torso, hands, fingers, toes, eyes, lips – wherever there is any movement at all in you, simply notice.

2.  Now, again, sit quietly, uninterrupted, not speaking, and for another full minute, sit but this time do not allow yourself to move any muscle in your body, again with the exception of breath-related movements.  Don’t move your legs, feet, head, arms, torso, hands, fingers, toes, eyes, or lips.  During this minute, track (notice) all the movement-related impulses that arise.  That is, simply notice every individual desire to move any part of your body without indulging its impulse.

3.  After that minute, take a few moments to feel any pent-up energy that is present in your body, then get up and move around a little, just to let that pent-up energy move and dissipate.

4.  Now sit down again, and repeat that second step.  Except – whenever you notice the desire or impulse to move any part of your body, go ahead and allow yourself to indulge that impulse after noticing it.  Mindfully notice it BEFORE indulging it, and stay in your mindful state even as you consciously allow that individual movement to occur.  Don’t over-indulge the impulse, though, and keep the movement that you indulge very simple and specific.  Then go back to NOT moving so you can again track the next impulse to move, again consciously indulging each impulse after mindfully noticing it.

5.  Now take one more minute, sitting quietly as with the previous steps, and allow yourself to move again as you did in the first step.  Be in your natural flow, allowing whatever movements that want to happen to be carried out.  But this time, see if you can notice each impulse to move BEFORE you make the movements.  This is the level of mindfulness you want to maintain in the course of your day.

If you’re not working with me, I recommend you take a week or two to practice this exercise daily to develop more acute attention.  Enjoy the ecstasy of being present!
Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

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